An OHS-based investigation of suicides should identify new control options

Melbourne, Australia – December 28, 2016: Melbourne Metro Train at Ringwood Station

Why is rail-related suicide an occupational health and safety (OHS) issue?

I looked into the issue of rail-related suicide when writing an OHS chapter for the Metro Trains Melbourne’s (MTM) bid for a franchise renewal for running trains on the metropolitan network. Each rail-related suicide, MTM describes these as trespasser suicides, creates major work-related psychological trauma for the train drivers as well as grief for the families of the deceased.  These incidents have secondary impacts on the rail workers who need to clean the trains which are taken out of service after each incident and driven to the nearest biowash, as well as those MTM staff, and emergency service workers, who were required to attend the scene.

There is also massive harm, pain and cost to those whose suicide attempts fail to result in death, and those who will care for those who are now disabled.

Addressing the hazard of rail-related suicides needs a new and broader discussion; one which must involve a broad, enlightened occupational health and safety approach.

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Where is the Senate Inquiry into Industrial Deaths heading?

As readers would realise, the transcripts for the Australian Senate inquiry into industrial deaths are fascinating. It is worth looking at the other presentations and questions on the day when the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry received a grilling as this provides insight into how to present to a government inquiry addressing occupational health and safety.

The Senate Committee has probably heard more from relatives of deceased workers than has any other similar inquiry, perhaps even the Workplace Bullying inquiry in which this Committee’s member Deborah O’Neill participated.  This is an indication of the shift in OHS over the last few years where the human impacts of workplace safety failures, what some describe as the “lived experience”, gain an influence that used to sit with professionals and acknowledged subject matter experts.

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A possible licence to be safe

The Victorian Parliament continues to consider the Building Amendment (Registration of Building Trades and Other Matters) Bill 2018. According to one interpretation in the unofficial Hansard:

“This bill’s objectives are to deliver better outcomes for domestic building consumers and building practitioners through further improvements to the practitioner registration and disciplinary system, improve compliance with swimming pool and spa barrier standards and implement some recommendations of the Victorian Cladding Taskforce and the Coroners Court.”

There are many aspects to this Bill, one of which is occupational health and safety (OHS).

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A bad day for ACCI at the Senate Inquiry into Industrial Deaths

Jennifer Low, Associate Director of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry addressed the Senate Inquiry into Industrial Deaths in Perth on August 30 2018.  Much of her presentation would be familiar to occupational health and safety professionals as it reflects the ideological position that the ACCI has put to countless inquiries over almost 20 years.  It is fair to say that the ACCI did not have a good day at the Inquiry.

Low’s presentation commenced with a restating of the general commitments to safety and that the ACCI and its members hold the importance of OHS as a “fundamental belief”. This was followed up with

“Our employer network feels strongly that the prevention for workplace incidents, injuries and fatalities is a shared responsibility.” (page 1, emphasis added)

This

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Review of West Gate Bridge findings has important lessons for modern infrastructure projects

2020 will be the fiftieth anniversary of the collapse of the West Gate Bridge which resulted in, amongst others, the deaths of 35 workers, changed Victoria’s approach to occupational health and safety (OHS), instigated a Royal Commission into the disaster, strengthened trade union influence and established an industrial antagonism to the John Holland group of businesses that continues today.

Panorama of West Gate Bridge in Melbourne at sunset in summer.

Last week,

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